15 months. That’s how long I’ve been under their watchful eye, understandably. It’s not something I ever wanted to happen, but I did, unknowingly, ask for it. Things were getting so hard. I didn’t understand why my brain wasn’t working.
It’s always a good thing to have a reasonable sense of self-awareness, but I took it too far. I was obsessed with myself. I knew something was wrong, and I was right. It’s not an excuse, but it is the deadweight that drove me to drink so much.
I didn’t even want to go out that night, but when drinks were involved, I could hardly say no. Anything to wash the pain away, anything to forget. Well, I forgot alright, and I forgot that getting in the car while drunk was not okay, but I did it anyways. I was only changing parking spaces, but I was so impaired that I couldn’t even make it three spots over without hitting a curb.
The cops were there. Right there, and it didn’t even occur to me that I could get into trouble. I thought I was invincible; physically, at least. But not on that night.
I was handcuffed before I could even comprehend what was happening. They stuffed me in a van full of other drunks, and I couldn’t even remember how to cry. I just sat there in the dark, unable to believe that this was happening to me.
The drunk tank was the worst. My friends were trying to bail me out, but I was too out of it to tell them where I was. I slept on a mat next to two other ladies who were “sick of these ass-hat cops,” and I could hear their conversation as I floated in and out of consciousness. Nothing was their fault, so this couldn’t be mine. I wouldn’t let it be.
Early the next morning, I was yanked up by a lady cop who shoved me into the back of her patrol van. They put me in the front of the female section, separated from the guys by a thin, wire fencing. My face was swollen and red from crying so much, so I kept my head down, but my subtle rejection of any human interaction didn’t stop the men from staring. Some of them made kissing noises and said things that I will never repeat. Nobody stopped them, so I kept my head low and my eyes shut.
The ride was long but I knew where we were going. The county jail, where you sit and wait in the booking for days at a time. It was a Sunday, the judge left early, and I was stuck without bail.
I waited in that room, back against a hard, green chair, for 12 hours.
After the foggy haze that hours of staring at a wall forces on you, my name was called. the lady at who took my thumbprints noticed the scars on my arm and asked me why I did that to myself. I said it’s hard to explain. She told me her son did it too. “Stupid,” she shook her head. “I’ll never understand it.” “You don’t have to,” I replied. “It’s not your story.”
After a couple more technicalities, They stripped me down, showered me off, and gave me the classic orange jumpsuit to put on my body. A label: Criminal.
I cried the whole was up to the cell blocks. Everyone there looked scary to me, but they were nice enough. The table that invited me over was full of ladies who were in for heroin, shaking from withdrawal. I wondered if this was how they saw me, one of them, still shaking from my hangover.
I couldn’t help but cry. I wanted out. I wasn’t a criminal, I was a good girl who went to school and payed her bills on time. This wasn’t me.
A lady who had been pacing the Rec room came over and put her hand on my shoulder and told me it was going to be okay. I started sobbing. “Thank you-” “BOO!” She interrupted with a crackling laugh. “Just kidding, you’re SCREWED.” I screamed and chocked on my tears. She laughed for a good fifteen minutes afterwards.
I didn’t eat. The toilet was in the middle of the room, so I didn’t go to the bathroom, either. My bunk mate was nice, but she talked to herself a lot. She told me that sometimes, when she was out shopping, someone else would take over her body and makes her steal. That’s what she was in for. “Oh God,” I prayed. “I’m one of them. Make it stop.”
But it didn’t stop. After two days of thick walls, hard mattresses, and sleeping with the lights on, my dad came to get me.
When they released me, I ran down a hallway that seemed to last for hours, and then fell into my dads arms, sobbing. He took me home, and I slept for the next few days.
My troubles didn’t end there. Instead, they piled on: expensive insurance, a revoked license, community service, and rehab classes took up much of my time for the next fifteen months. I hated it, and I was still convinced that I was just being young and wild like all 21-year-olds were supposed to be. That is, until my first MADD meeting.
Mothers against drunk driving. Fathers, too. One by one, people went up to the stage and told their stories of how that had lost a son, a sister, or a best friend due to a drunk driver. They cried, every last one of them, and so did I.
I didn’t want to deny my fault anymore. I was the person who caused these people pain, and I wasn’t about to risk that again.
Now, a year and a half later, I think twice before every decision I make. It is not my responsibility to decide if I’m strong enough to drive drunk. And now, I have to work twice as hard to get a job because of my criminal background. Trust me, this is not a mistake you want to make, but at the same time, I will not let this story become another label that defines who I am.
I am better than that, and I will live like I am until the day I die.